Six Theoretical Models of Development and Why They are Important for Understanding the Behavior of Youth There are six major theoretical models used to explain how human development evolves. The Biological Model looks for organic causes to cognitive, learning, and behavioral disorders and uses medication for treatment. The Behavioral Model is observable and measurable. It uses positive reinforcement to obtain desired behavior. The Social Model focuses on modeling and combines behavior and cognitive models to figure out how people learn from their environments. The Ecological Model believes that interactions within the environment and social circles influence behavior and learning process. The Developmental Model looks at development through predetermined developmental stages. The Psychodynamic Model focuses on the unconscious and believes that the environment affects the thought process which develops personality. Each of these theories has strengths and weaknesses when working with students who have special needs. Biological and Behavioral Models
The Biological Model along with the Behavioral Model has gained the most support out of the five models because they can be validated (GCU, 2010). Both of these models use methods that are observable and measurable therefore identifying causes and effects of behavior. The Biological Model looks for organic causes such as pathogens that cause disease; neurological, neurobiological, neurochemical, chromosomal, gene, and congenital abnormalities; and brain damage as factors for causing behavioral, cognitive, and learning disorders (Wheeler & Dean, 2010 p. 4-6). Medication is used to treat the disorders found.
The Behavioral Model focuses on consequences of actions. This model studies the interactions of the environment with the outcome of behavior. A person is more likely to repeat actions that obtain positive consequence or reinforcement while they are more likely not to produce as many actions that produce negative consequences or punishment. The Behavioral Model is adaptive rather than reflective so the focus is on reinforcing desired behavior instead of discernment as to why the behavior is occurring which has been shown to be beneficial for students with developmental disabilities. Students with developmental disabilities learn which
behaviors produce reinforcement in the environment that they are in which leads to development of positive habit forming procedures. However, there are shortfalls in both of these models. The Biological Model labels a person with a disability. While labeling can be beneficial in seeking out the right treatment it can also lead to a person not working to his or her full potential and blame their lack of progress on their disorder. Another shortfall is that medication alone does not always solve the issue. There may be other causes and factors that the medication cannot control, the medication may have no effect on certain people or they may be misdiagnosed, and what will happen once medication is withdrawn needs to be taken into consideration. That is why this model is best used in conjunction with the Behavioral Model so that positive reinforcement for acceptable behavior can be taught so that a person is able to cope without 100 percent dependency on medication since medication is not completely dependable and has side effects. The Behavioral Model is lacking in that it looks only at the present and does not consider past experiences as a direct response for the present behavior. However, Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS), a spin-off of the Behavioral Model, has been gaining in popularity because it takes into consideration aspects from the Social and Ecological Models. PBS is student centered, uses positive reinforcement for acceptable behavior instead of waiting to punish unacceptable behavior, and works to better the quality of life for the student by involving the parent or legal guardian. Social and Ecological Models
The Social and Ecological Models both examine how the social circles a child is surrounded by influence the development of behavior and learning of that child. The Social Model focuses on modeling while the Ecological Model focuses on ecosystems. The importance of these models is that they take into consideration how social aspects affect a child. By looking at these aspects closely one can manipulate the environment to produce meaningful social interaction to enhance development and learning. The Social Model believes that youth will imitate and mimic what they see being modeled. So, if the child sees negative behavior being modeled and there are no consequences then that child is more apt to produce that negative behavior. On the other hand if that child witnesses positive behavior then that child
will be more likely to imitate that positive behavior. The Ecological Model is child centered and perceives that the child belongs to many social circles such as home, school, and community (Wheeler & Dean, 2010 p. 14-15). The child is affected by each of these ecosystems just as each of these systems is affect by that child. It could be a vicious cycle or it could be a healthy cycle. That is why it is important to understand how each system affects one another so that changes can be made within systems to produce behavior that is conductive and beneficial. While the Social and Ecological Models are helpful in understanding how certain behaviors have formed they are not widely used because they are hard to observe and measure in a validated manner. There are too many factors that go into forming development socially so it is too difficult to say with certainty where a specific behavior has come from and to what extent the social factor has contributed to a specific behavior. Developmental and Psychodynamic Models
The Developmental and Psychodynamic Models are stage models. They both focus on stages that a person moves through. The Developmental Model focuses on stages of development such as milestones while the Psychodynamic Model focuses on stages in the thought process. The Developmental Model is important for implementing appropriate practices that coincide with the developmental level a child is at. The Psychodynamic Model tries to figure out motives for behavior and believes that figuring out the personality will help to figure out the disorder (Wheeler & Dean, 2010 p. 5). The Developmental model is used especially with the younger students but has been shown to be more effective when combined with early intervention methods for special needs students. The Psychodynamic model is not used in the school setting because there really is no way to determine what is really going on inside the mind of someone else.
All six of these models help educators look at factors that affect behavior and learning ability. While some of these theories such as Biological and Behavioral are used more often than other theories such as Social and Ecological, it is important to have a solid foundation in understanding each theory so that you can produce a more holistic treatment for each student.
Butler, Alia. (2010). The Disadvantages of Applied Behavior Analysis. Livestrong.com. Retrieved March 30, 2013 from http://www.livestrong.com/article/139870-the-disadvantages-applied-behavior-analysis/. GCU. (2010) SPE-522 Lecture Notes Week One: Understanding Behavior in Children andYouth. Retrieved April 1, 2013 from www.gcu.edu. Theories for Child Development. Retrieved March 30, 2012 from http://www.radford.edu/~jcsteele/Lect2-Theories%20for%20Chid%20Development.pdf Wheeler, John J and Richey, David Dean. (2010). Behavior Management Principles and Practices of Positive Behavior Supports Second Edition. Pearson Education Inc. ISBN 0-558-42054-0.